Data breach at Hong Kong toy maker VTech highlights broader problems

HONG KONG The theft of toy maker VTech Holdings Ltd's database highlights a growing problem with basic cyber security measures at small, non-financial companies that handle electronic customer data, industry watchers said on Monday.The hacked data at VTech included information about customers who download children's games, books and other educational content, the Hong Kong-based toy maker said. The breach also included information relating to children.As more devices are connected to the Internet and as companies increasingly collect personal information about their customers, such attacks are expected to increase."Smaller companies might be targeted less often, but the implications ... can be just as serious," said Bryce Boland, Asia Pacific chief technology officer of cyber security firm FireEye. "As larger companies implement stronger security measures, smaller companies become relatively easy targets for cyber crime." VTech has a market value of HK$21.9 billion ($2.8 billion). Tech giant Apple Inc has a market capitalization of $657 billion. In VTech's case, information that should have been obscured and unrecoverable if the database were breached - such as passwords and secret answers - either wasn't obscured at all or was done so improperly, said Larry Salibra, founder and chief executive of crowd-sourced bug-testing platform, Pay4Bugs. Salibra said these types of security measures were basic best practices that don't require a lot of money. "This seems to be a trend. Hardware manufacturers really don't value software skills - I would imagine because they don't see any immediate positive impact to their bottom line," Salibra said."Software talent is an easy place to be cheap with minimal consequences until something like this happens." VTech said in a statement that about 5 million customer accounts and related children's' profiles worldwide were affected. It did not break out how many profiles belonged to parents and how many to children. News site Motherboard reported that data belonging to some 4.8 million parents and more than 200,000 children was taken. The site said it had spoken to a hacker who claimed to be behind the attack, who said he planned to do "nothing" with the data. Motherboard's report could not be independently confirmed.VTech said the breached database included names, email addresses, passwords, secret questions and answers for password retrieval, IP addresses, mailing addresses, download histories and children's names, genders and birth dates. The company, which sells children's tablets, electronic learning toys and baby monitors, said the targeted database did not include credit card information, ID card numbers, Social Security numbers or drivers licence numbers. Vtech said it has taken steps to prevent further attacks but did not provide details. It said it has emailed every account holder. Vtech's stock has fallen 22 percent this year. Shares and trade in other VTech securities were suspended on Monday morning. (Reporting by Clare Baldwin and Donny Kwok; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee and Stella Tsang; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Bill Tarrant)

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Debris from U.S. rocket recovered off coast of southwest England

LONDON Debris from a U.S. rocket, most likely the doomed SpaceX Falcon 9, has been recovered near the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of southwest England, the UK coastguard has said on Friday.It was covered in barnacles and was initially mistaken for a dead whale.Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement that a piece of metal alloy was recovered with the help of a local boatman. It measured around 10 meters by 4 meters (13 feet). Martin Leslie, coastal area commander, said: "The markings show an American flag. It looks like it's an American rocket and is similar to the unmanned Space X Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June." Photographs showed the debris covered in what Joseph Thomas, the boatman, told the BBC were goose barnacles. "There were lots of gulls on the water and I thought initially it was a dead whale and the birds were feeding off it," he said. (Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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Tiger becomes unlikely pals with the goat that was supposed to be his lunch

A goat and tiger at the Primorsky Safari Park in Russia are foregoing the typical predator-prey relationship in exchange for a more progressive and equal one. Timur the goat was originally intended to be a live meal for Amur the Siberian tiger. However, it seems that upon being released in Amur's enclosure, Timur immediately took charge. See also: Baby giraffe and elephant are best pals despite height difference Timur chased Amur out of his sleeping area and established himself as a dominant force to be reckoned with. Since then, Amur has taken to sleeping on the roof while Timur snoozes in his bed. Timur's brave antics actually earned him his name, which comes from a courageous character in a Russian children's book. "It's a fitting name for such a fearless animal," the park stated. Just goes to show: Sometimes confidence can compensate for sharp claws.

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6 drawings that capture the feeling of Black Friday in New York City

Black Friday is a day of determination and resolve. Shoppers march out into the cold morning to wait in long lines with hundreds of other bargain-hunters. This year I was given an unusual task — to go out and document this event. Not with a camera, but with a sketch pad and pencils, to try to convey the feelings of the day. See also: 50 things to do instead of shop on Black Friday As a Black Friday shopping virgin, the event wasn't what I expected. At the stores I visited in New York City Friday morning, there was no frantic rush, no stampede or shoving. Instead, people seemed calm, quiet and respectful as they went about their business. It was a bit crowded and claustrophobic at times, but many shoppers seemed interested just to stand in and take in the spectacle, as I was. In general, I learned that Black Friday means a lot of standing around and waiting, and not as much pounding on doors and trampling people. I've included some quick sketches I rendered while watching the shoppers do their thing. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments. Union Square, New York City Best Buy, Union Square, New York CityImage: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable Macy's, Herald Square, New York CityImage: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable Macy's, Herald Square, New York CityImage: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable Union Square, New York CityImage: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable Macy's, Herald Square, New York CityImage: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable

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Drug driving suit mimics taking the wheel stoned

A simulation suit that mimics the effects on wearer's reactions of taking illegal substances has been developed by scientists to show young drivers the dangers of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs.Scientists from the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany, in conjunction with Ford Motor Company, created the suit to simulate some of the effects of drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (Ecstasy); in particular slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor co-ordination.A kinetic device in the suit's gloves produces a tremor akin to that caused by some illicit drugs. Random flashing lights in the goggles' peripheral area, allied to hallucinogenic-type sounds in the headphones, combine to disorientate drivers. In tests even professional drivers were badly affected, failing to perform simple tasks such as driving in between cones."The suit's made of a number of different elements," Ford vehicle safety manager Paul Fay told Reuters. "So there are pads that go on the elbows and knees, which stiffen the joint and slow down reaction times. In addition to that there are large heavy weights placed on the ankles and wrists. These have a big effect on co-ordination and balance. On one hand there's a device that produces a tremor and affects motor skills, and the key thing is the addition of the goggles which produce tunnel vision, with visual distortions, and random flashing lights, and finally headphones which provide audible disturbances with random noises which are very distracting when you are trying to drive.""We start with very heavy ankle weight, then you've got knee padding, knee restraints, restricting movement," added Ford spokesperson Charlotte Ward. "We've then got two wrist weights, elbow restrictions, the tremor glove, neck brace to again restrict movement, the goggles which distort the vision and with the flashing lights can help create this kind of tunnel vision effects and then we've got the headphones playing this sort of horrible noise." The experience will be incorporated into Ford Driving Skills for Life DSFL), the automakers' young driver program that provides training to people around the world through hands-on and online tuition. Young drivers will be given the opportunity to wear the suit while driving on a closed course. "The suit is designed not to produce the sensation of being on drugs, but to reproduce the side effects which may have a dangerous effect on your driving," said Fay.The suit is a variation on the Drink Driving Suit that the automakers incorporated into their training last year.Fay said the company wants to provide hands-on education to young people about the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, even when they might believe they feel fine. "A lot of the skills that they need for driving - co-ordination, good eyesight, good visual acuity, being able to be free from the distractions of things that are happening on the road to be able to operate and control the vehicle. All of those deteriorate, response times are slower, co-ordination is poorer," he said.A 2013 survey by the US's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that around 18 percent of the country's motor vehicle driver deaths involved non-alcoholic drugs other than alcohol. Their study showed that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs that impair driving. Fay says it is too early to draw major conclusions from the success of the suit in changing young people's perceptions, as the project has only just been launched, but said those who have tried it out for themselves were "all surprised. Obviously it's been launched as part of Driving Skills for Life program, so we haven't a huge amount of experience with it but I think everyone who puts it on says I didn't expect the effects to be so marked and I guess when you take the suit out of context of people actually being high on drugs and saying this is the effects it would have, if they were taking drugs they may not notice that their performance was being affected in this way, so it's a real eye opener for them that this could seriously affect what they're doing and how they're driving." Ford works alongside leading safety organizations in 11 European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, and Russia. In addition to its range of driving suits, Ford has also developed training that highlights the dangers of social media activity at the wheel.

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